Steve Kimock Band | The Fillmore | San Francisco | 05.30.02

Steve Kimock - guitar | Rodney Holmes - drums
Alphonso Johnson - bass | Mitch Stein - guitar

Set I
You’re the One*
Five B4 Funk*
Song Too
Why Can't We All Just Samba
Elmer's Revenge

Set II
Cole's Law
Tangled Hangers*
Thing One
* with Martin Fierro
+ with DJ Tobiwan

Thanks to for help with the setlist.

It surprises even me that I had never seen Steve Kimock perform until now. Having just recently acquired recordings of his past shows, and hearing rave reviews of his current tour, I was very anxious to actually see and hear him in action. Plus I had heard that the latest incarnation of his band is superb. Being familiar with Alphonso Johnson’s stellar musicianship, I figured that these Rodney Holmes and Mitch Stein characters were equally as strong. After witnessing Steve Kimock Band’s performance at The Fillmore, I realize that this is an understatement. Though I’m in no position to cite subtleties and compare different renditions of songs, I will try to capture the overall SKB experience from the point of view of a new fan.

The Fillmore was more packed than I have ever seen it. From the moment we entered that big dark room people were twirling all over the place, and one thing I noticed about Kimock fans is that they are intensely into the music. I’ve spent a good portion of my life at shows, but I’ve rarely seen an audience so focused on the music emanating from the performers onstage. If people weren’t watching the musicians with their jaws agape in amazement (as I was), then they were spinning on the dance floor in a state of rapture.

I can see why SKB’s music has this effect on the audience. Even in their quieter moments these musicians sustain a level on intensity that feels almost physical. Then they’ll kick it up a notch and blow you away with a full-on rockin’ number. Through the course of one set they switch gears many times over, and yet these transitions are so subtle that you don’t know what hit you until well into a song. I could see this in the faces of veteran fans in the audience, so I know this wasn’t solely due to my limited Kimockian experience.

As for the musicians, these guys are supreme. Drummer Rodney Holmes is simply amazing. What a powerhouse – he never let up once during the entire performance. “And he’s only 12 years old!” I couldn’t help but exclaim to my friends. Well, with all due respect to the man he’s obviously not a kid but a highly seasoned musician. But damn! His youthful appearance belies a mind-blowing ability on the kit that commanded my attention the entire night. You really should see this guy in action.

Guitarist Mitch Stein is also fantastic. I’m sure being the “other guitarist” for SKB could be a tough job, but he’s clearly up to the challenge. Kimock let Mitch take the lead several times and I was duly impressed. His style is distinctly different than Kimock’s: while Kimock’s sound reminds me of rain – sometimes gently dropping on your head and other times pelting you in a torrent – Mitch has a more searing delivery that complements Kimock’s playing and balances it out nicely.

As for Alphonso Johnson, it was great to watch him in a new forum. New for me, at least. I’ve seen him with Jazz is Dead and The Other Ones, but watching him with SKB was like watching a new performer. He layed back and let his bass lines move the music along, every now and again stepping up with an unyielding solo. At one point toward the end of the second set he couldn’t help but break into a smile; he was clearly feeling it as much as I was from my vantage point on the dance floor.

Even Kimock seemed to be enjoying himself; in Kimock fashion, that is. Did I catch him smiling at the end of the show? Maybe not, but he did joke about Martin Fierro being their “recovering guest artist,” gave nice props to DJ Tobiwan and graciously (and deservedly) propped his SKB cohorts at the conclusion of the show. He hung back, almost humbly, when Rodney grabbed the mic and yelled “Steve Kimock, ladies and gentlemen!” to thundering applause.

Martin Fierro’s sax added some fine texture to the songs, especially “Five B4 Funk” and “Tangled Hangers.” The poor guy was wearing some sort of chest brace, but this didn’t stop him from blowing it out on the brass. When Kimock said “recovering,” I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the brace or to the dizzying experience of playing with SKB (it took me a while just to recover from watching the show). But Mr. Martin more than held his own in the organic jams and flowing, yet tight, song renditions.

DJ Tobiwan joined the crew for “Sabertooth,” which took an interesting turn. As the opener Tobiwan provided some fine beats with his funk and groove, and his collaboration with SKB and sax man Fierro put a whole new spin on things. I’m not sure if the musicians knew where they were going, but it didn’t matter ‘cause it sounded pretty good to my ears. SKB with a DJ? That has some potential...

Overall this was a very satisfying first-time Steve Kimock Band experience. As with many people, I get turned onto a lot of new music by hearing live show recordings from my friends, and sometimes I’m concerned that a band will fall short of my expectations once I see them for myself. (We all have our off-nights, of course.) But this SKB show was exhilarating, and I’ll be anxious to hear how they evolve down the road. Hopefully the current incarnation of this band is here to stay.

Margaret Pitcher
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 6/12/02]

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